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MOVIE REVIEW: Get Out this week and see Get Out!

They’re an attractive young couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams). She who is white, assures him as they plan a visit to meet her parents, that they won’t care that he’s black. She adds that her father would have voted for Obama for a third term. When they arrive at the Rose’s parents’ stately home in its picturesque, bucolic setting, her father, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and her mother, Missy (Catherine Keener) greet Chris and extend their best efforts to make him feel comfortable. Chris also hears it straight from Dean: he would have voted for Obama for a third term. But after his first night there, Chris begins to realize that there are some occurrences that go way beyond the expected awkwardness of his being in Rose’s family home.

As I left the theater after seeing Get Out, I found myself thinking of the title of the New Zealand group OMC’s hit song, How Bizarre. While the film’s genre is horror, and it contains all the elements of that genre, there is so much more to this story. That’s what makes this film exceptional is it takes a common format and intertwines issues of race in the form of stereotypes about black men and white women, and the physical attributes of black people, to create a truly unique film going experience. And that makes it a See It!

Written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele, who takes viewers on an entertaining journey giving them clues to the underlying mystery and then fits all of the pieces together in some expected and unexpected ways. Additionally, the cinematography effectively enriches so many of the scenes and is a key to telling this fascinating story.

Get Out has some familiar horror film flaws. Chris, like many protagonists in this type of film, is sometimes a little slow to figure things.

There are other defects as well. Chris shares his growing-up experience which is a key to some of his reactions. He never knew his father and lost his mother to a hit and run accident when he was 11-years-old. And at one point he tells Rose, she is all he has. The problem with that scenario is 11-year-olds don’t raise themselves. Further, he’s a fairly polished young man and an accomplished photographer, indicating that at least one if not more adults invested time and money in his development. It’s unlikely that those “investors” would have disappeared from Chris’ life now that he is an adult, resulting in Rose being all he has.

As I discussed in my review of Fences, it is troubling that the ubiquitous portrayal of black families as dysfunctional is a theme often perpetuated by black writers. Peele creates Chris’s story as one with an absentee father, even though Peele’s own father was in his life.

As to cast diversity, Get Out gets an “A-“. When it comes to black and white characters, you won’t find a more diverse film. However, there is only one Asian-American and one Hispanic, each with a small speaking role.

Get Out is Rated R for violence, bloody images, language and sexual references, and is 104 minutes in length. Get Out is a unique film you’ll think about and talk about. And it’s a See It!

MOVIE REVIEW: Fences - See It! . . . with a critical eye.

The movie Fences is built upon the strong foundation provided by a superlative cast of Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, and Mykelti Williamson

In playwright August Wilson’s Broadway play turned film, Fences, it is Pittsburgh, Pa in the 1950s. Troy (Denzel Washington) is a middle-aged, former Negro League baseball player who now drives a garbage truck. He bears the scars of his career disappointments and the damage from being a black man in America during that time. His wife, Rose, (Viola Davis) conjures up an image of the line from the Spinners song Sadie “Sweeter than cotton candy, stronger than papa’s brandy.” She keeps the house as well as the peace between her and Troy’s son, Cory (Jovan Adepo) who wants to play football. Troy opposes athletics for his son. Cory thinks his dad is afraid he’ll prove to be the better athlete. The truth is Troy believes his son will be denied a fair chance to compete and end up disappointed. Troy also deals with his WWII injured brother, Gabriel’s (Mykelti Williamson) permanent mental and physical limitations as well as guilt over how he handled his brother’s settlement payment from the federal government.

There’s a lot going on in Fences. The movie, Fences, is built upon the strong foundation provided by a superlative cast. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, to use a baseball analogy, knock the ball out of the park. Together they provide the forceful screen presence that this drama had to have. Denzel Washington also directed the film. Jovan Adepo is angry, intense, and confrontational which makes his character, Cory, absolutely credible. But the true unsung hero of Fences is Mykelti Williamson. As compelling as the other performances are, Williamson more than met the challenge of playing a severely handicapped individual.

This film also captures the essence of working class family disputes where mothers embrace their children’s career dreams, while fathers in their own loving way, want kids to be practical. While dreams are nice, dads think their kids should devote their energies to activities which will help them earn a living.

For these reasons, Fences is a See It!

On the other hand, the dialogue is very wordy, long sentences and soliloquies by the characters. Effective scriptwriting allows the viewers to understand past events from bits and pieces of discourse throughout the film. However, in a lengthy kitchen discussion, Troy and Rose lay out all the details surrounding Gabriel’s war injury. Then they go through the intervening developments before bringing the situation up to date. Viewers are now fully informed. However, in a real-world exchange, there would be no need to rehash facts well-known to both but instead they would address only the most recent issues and maybe cite the past to support a current point of view.

Additionally, as I began to digest this film, I wondered why August Wilson felt it necessary to write a story which encapsulates the worst stereotypes, criminal and immoral behavior for his characters. While I won’t discuss them all, two are worth mentioning.

At one point, when talking to a friend, Troy relates how as a young teen, his father catches him being intimate with a 13-year-old girl. His father begins beating him. Not for what he is doing but so that his father could have a turn with the girl! Is this really how a father would respond? Maybe in a small percentage of cases, but this is not the norm.

Rose shares with Troy how she grew up with siblings in which all are halves, no two with the same mother and father. That might be a tale a character could tell today but based upon the time period of this story, Rose would have been born in the early 1900s. Black families were much more intact then than today. Census figures from that time show that the vast majority of black babies born in the early 1900s were born to mothers and fathers who were married!

Then there’s the N word. It’s actually the first word Troy utters and there’s no shortage of the slur throughout the rest of movie.

August Wilson, an interracial African-American, his father was German, seemed to be willing to stretch credibility to taint these characters. Maybe he thought it made them more interesting. While I recommend Fences, we need more true stories like Hidden Figures and less made up ones like Fences.

Fences is 140 minutes and rated PG-13 for its thematic elements, language, and some suggestive references.

 

Carl Clay Reflects on His Illustrious Career in Film and Theatre

Carl Clay is the nationally acclaimed, award-winning founder and executive producer of the Black Spectrum Theatre Company

Playwright, filmmaker, lyricist, teacher, and mentor; these are among the few titles held by Carl Clay, the nationally acclaimed, award-winning founder and executive producer of the Black Spectrum Theatre Company.  Mr. Clay stopped by the What's The 411 TV studio recently to chat with me about Black Spectrum Theatre, its past history and future endeavors, including the theatre company's upcoming presentation of August Wilson's TWO TRAINS RUNNING, on November 4 - November 20.

In the interview, you'll see why I add yet another title -- "arts activist" -- to his long list of roles in theatre, film, music, and his starring role in bringing arts to build community across this nation.

 

  • Published in Theatre
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